It’s now been confirmed that Stephen Strasburg’s arm is now in serious jeopardy. Oh, is that not what this article is about? My bad…..it’s now been confirmed that former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker has been hired as the new skipper of the Washington Nationals.
It was quite a shock when the news hit early this morning, as most thought the Nationals were going to hire Bud Black, but the USA Today reported that the offer of two years for less than two million dollars did not work for the former manager of the San Diego Padres, and he subsequently turned it down. Yet, Nationals owner Ted Lerner would rather you believe otherwise.
“We were looking for a manager to help us achieve our ultimate goal of competing for a World Series championship, ” Lerner said. “During our broad search process we met with many qualified candidates, and ultimately it was clear that Dusty’s deep experience was the best fit for our ballclub.”
Okay, fair enough. Baker has managed for 20 years in the major leagues after a very successful playing career, and has found some success in tenures with the San Francisco Giants (leading them to the World Series in 2002), the Cincinnati Reds (led them to three playoff berths in six seasons), and of course, the Chicago Cubs, who came within five outs of the World Series in 2003 on Baker’s watch. Dusty’s resume is impressive, and teams have gotten better when he arrives on the scene, averaging 18 more wins than they did the year before he got there, but Dusty also brings an old-school mentality with him. He’s known to prefer veterans over prospects, doesn’t really buy into all of the sabermetrics that have become a big part of baseball, and has a history of working his starting pitchers extremely hard, which was obviously what my “joke” was about at the top of this article. Don’t worry, I wasn’t the only one thinking it.
In case you weren’t aware, Dusty is given a lot of the blame for the arm troubles that plagued the careers of former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and a handful of others including Edinson Volquez and Jonathan Broxton. In their first full seasons under the three-time NL Manager of the Year, Wood averaged 122 pitches per start, and Prior averaged 126, numbers that are unheard of these days. While Wood found a little success as a reliever later in his career, he was never the same pitcher that struck out 20 in a game, and after finishing third in the Cy Young voting in 2003, Prior would miss a ton of games over the next three years, and did not pitch in the major leagues after the 2006 season before officially retiring in 2013.
So, good luck with all of that, Strasburg. Look, I like Dusty. He’s a likable guy, but some of his decision-making is part of the reason that the Cubs went from a contender in 2003 to the worst record in the National League in 2006. That’s a big drop in three years, and yes, Dusty has had success, but he’s always only gotten so far. He hasn’t proven as a manager yet that he can win the big one, and with the Mets doing what they did to the Nationals this year, the big chance that Jordan Zimmermann is out the door already, and taking over a young team with an old school mentality, he may not even get that chance in 2016.